Cheney book renews post-9/11 US policy fights

The book, "In My Time," has grabbed headlines for Cheney's attempts to settle scores with foes.

Reuters September 01, 2011

WASHINGTON: Former Vice President Dick Cheney's new memoir revives the fierce battles over US national security policies after the Sept 11 attacks as it rips open old wounds among aides to President George W. Bush.

Cheney describes his upbringing on the Wyoming prairie where he hunted jackrabbits and learned to fish before turning his attention to his eight years in the Bush White House, where he pushed a "go-it-alone" world view that enraged his critics.

The book, "In My Time," has grabbed headlines for Cheney's attempts to settle scores with foes such as former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Powell accused Cheney of taking "cheap shots" at his former colleagues.

Rice, in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, said she did not appreciate Cheney's "attacks on my integrity."

Beyond such skirmishes, the book also highlights how far the national security debate has shifted as the United States prepares to mark the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.

Cheney's unapologetic defense of policies he advocated, such as harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects and interventionist foreign policy, surprised few in Washington.

Perhaps more surprising was the marked shift away from the vision championed by Cheney, who won many of the policy arguments in the early Bush years only to see his influence wane in the Republican president's second term.

"The majority of what is associated with Cheney and what Cheney embraces in the book, a unilateralist, American exceptionalist, 'our way or the highway' approach to the world, has been completely abandoned," said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and author of a book about the White House National Security Council.

Go-it-alone vs Multilateralism

US war-weariness after Iraq and Afghanistan has become so pronounced that advocacy of a muscular US foreign policy pushed by former Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 has gotten little emphasis among Republicans vying to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

And Republican lawmakers were among the most vocal in questioning Obama's decision to intervene in Libya in March.

Rothkopf noted that the manner of intervention, in which the Obama administration insisted on multilateralism and wanted other countries to take the lead, is the reverse of the approach favored by Cheney.

While Cheney pushed a hawkish approach toward Iran and Syria and even suggested bombing a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, the idea of US military intervention in either of those two countries is not currently part of the national dialogue.

On counterterrorism policies, one of Obama's first acts when he took office in 2009 was to disavow harsh interrogations and promise to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, though the detention center remains open to this day because the administration has struggled with a lack of feasible alternatives.

In his book, Cheney puzzled over Obama's view that the facility harms America's image in the world even though Bush himself expressed sympathy for that perspective in a 2006 news conference in which he said he'd prefer to close Guantanamo if an alternative could be found.

"It's not Guantanamo that does the harm, it is the critics of the facility who peddle falsehoods about it," Cheney writes.